Fantasy alert! The Post-Gazette reports that Evan Meek will get a few shots at closing the rest of the year, suggesting that he and Joel Hanrahan will compete for the role in Spring Training:â†µ
That would appear to set up a de facto duel for the closer's role next spring. And that never is easy to pull off, given that closers seldom see save situations in exhibitions until the final week or so. Even then, they usually are facing minor leaguers.â†µ
"It's a good question, and it's something I've thought about," Russell said. "We'll talk about it this winter, because it is difficult to compete in spring training in that role."â†µ
At the same time, Russell strongly suggested he would prefer to identify one closer, while having the other available for the role as needed.â†µ
Hopefully this won't set up any sort of full-blown controversy. As fireballers with excellent numbers, Meek and Hanrahan are both great candidates. It's a shame, though, that Russell wants there to be one clear closer. Hanrahan pitched 84 innings in 2008, and Meek has 72 this year. Many closers pitch fewer innings than that, as managers wait to use them until the ninth inning even if a higher-leverage situation (like when the bases are loaded with no outs with a two-run lead in the seventh) passes them by. Having two durable powerhouse relievers can be a huge asset, but Russell will be wasting some of it by forcing either Hanrahan or Meek into a predetermined role.